The Meta Morfoss app testing sessions on 15th and 16th November were a huge success. Around 250 children, teenagers and adults visited our stand at the media festival in Dresden and about a third of them tested and evaluated our Meta Morfoss App. We received a lot of positive feedback for the first Reading Quest in the world—you can read about it in our detailed report below.
The long-awaited Meta Morfoss app testing sessions have finally taken place, at the 2014 media festival in Dresden which drew a record 2800 visitors and where the German MB21 multimedia prize was awarded. About 250 children, teenagers and adults took an interest in our Meta Morfoss app; 82 of them tested and evaluated it. Many thanks to the Dresden media cultural center, which provided us with this wonderful possibility to make our app known to a wider audience. And of course many thanks to all the enthusiastic testers for their curiosity, stamina, the exciting feedback, praise, constructive criticism and ideas for developing our Reading Quest further.
I liked the app because I had to find words and tap them, which made the figures in the picture come to life. That was very funny. I’ve never done anything like that before because we don’t have a tablet at home. I like to read a lot so it wasn’t very difficult for me to get through the whole text. (Lisa, 10 years old)
The app was great. Quite a nice story. It wasn’t that hard. Except to find nouns—that wasn’t so easy. But there’s a solution sheet we can peek at. I would like to play the app again. And I would like to test another Reading Quest. (Alfred, 9 years old)
It was clear from all the excitement and interest at our stand that almost all children are fascinated by iPads and the possibilities for playing that they provide. Our five iPads were not enough to meet demand. Many people simply waited patiently for their turn. Often the parents came up to us and told them what a great idea it was and expressed the hope that their kids would be motivated into reading even if they didn’t particularly like to read. The kids then really became totally immersed in the story and followed how Meta Morfoss went through her transformations. Only three children gave up because they found the app “too difficult” or because they had expected a game rather than a story that they had to read. A majority of the children were fascinated at least until halfway through and a large part made it to the end, even the small ones. Considering there were many other activities at the media festival, which took place on four storeys, to rival our testing session we are glad that Meta had a magnetic appeal.
I thought it was really good. It was a lot of fun. It was nice to look for the words. Sometimes it was hard, sometimes easy. (Susanne, 7 years old)
Of course, we wanted to find out more about who is interested in out app and what they really think, so we asked all the participants in the testing sessions to also fill in a questionnaire. Here are the results: A total of 81 people tested the app, of which 61 were children aged from six to 13. Nineteen of them were over 13. The youngest was barely six years old and the oldest was 77. Most of the children were aged between eight and 12. Slightly more than half of the participants were male.
The app begins with an interactive tutorial, which shows users how a Reading Quest functions. Sixty participants said that it was useful, but 19 said it was sometimes helpful but difficult to understand at times. Two said that they hadn’t understood anything but we have put this down to the fact that they were too young to use the app on their own and had the rest read out to them by their parents.
It’s a very detailed app. You can learn a lot even if you can’t read so well. It’s fun because something happens in the pictures. It’s great that the app will soon be out. I would buy it for myself. I like to play computer games, preferably role games. I only read sometimes. I like computers more than books. (Johann, 12 years old)
A majority (47) of participants said they found it difficult to find the key words, but 34 said it was easy to find them. Peter Hacks would surely have been as glad as we are that most users (75) liked the story about Meta Morfoss. Most of those who didn’t like it so much were older boys. (It has been proven that boys are not so interested in stories where girls are the main protagonists).
KClogg will be very pleased that almost everyone (78) liked his illustrations. However, some participants (10) thought that the animated elements disturbed the reading process.
I thought that the app was very nice but the story was a bit short, I would have liked to continue reading. The sounds were sometimes annoying, for example the squeaky swing with the crocodile. But generally I thought it was all really good. If the story in the app were longer I would download it. (Leon, 12 years old)
Most (65) liked the sounds and noises. What’s great is that some of the teenagers also rose to the challenge of reading the story in English and in Russian once they’d finished the German version! Overall, we’re delighted that 75 percent of participants said that they liked the Daktylos Media Reading Quest and would like to try out other apps of this kind – this is a great motivation and inspiration to get right on to producing our next app.
Das App Testing ist für uns ein großer Erfolg. Es wurde offensichtlich, dass die App wie vermutet am besten bei den Acht- bis Zwölfjährigen ankommt. Prinzipiell kann jedes Kind, welches schon lesen kann, die App benutzen. Allerdings verstehen manche der jüngeren Kinder noch nicht, was mit „Schlüsselwort“ gemeint ist, trotz der Erklärung dieses Begriffs im Tutorial. Und einige Erwachsene kritisierten im Gespräch, dass es oft schwierig sei, die Wörter intuitiv beziehungsweise aus der Text-Bild-Verbindung heraus selbständig zu finden, also ohne sich die gesuchten Wörter in der Hilfe anzeigen zu lassen. Wir wollen bei der nächsten Lesequest diesen Suchmechanismus intuitiver und einfacher gestalten. Uns fiel aber die große Geduld auf, mit der die Kinder die Schlüsselwörter suchten und fanden – Peter Hacks‘ witziger Text und KCloggs einzigartige animierte Illustrationen schaffen es, die jungen Leseratten gespannt bei der Stange zu halten.
“Every year, we’re totally blown away!” Dresden’s media and culture center says that children and young people don’t have “digital dementia”
On 15th and 16th November 2014, Daktylos Media is presenting its Meta Morfoss app to the public in Dresden. Children and their families will be able to test the first reading quest in the world. This will be just one of the activities on offer at a huge festival organized by Dresden’s media and cultural center that encourages people to try things out, inform themselves and be amazed. Daktylos Media spoke to the head of the center’s project office Kirsten Mascher about the festival background and goals.
mb21 German Multimedia Prize @Medienfestival 2014
Daktylos Media (DM): What can we expect from this year’s media festival? What’s unmissable?
Kirsten Mascher (KM): Well, the festival itself! This year, it’s taking place in Dresden’s Technische Sammlungen museum, whose collection complements our approach wonderfully. The building will be alive with media projects, activities and workshops. There’ll be plenty for people to do on their own, to be creative, to be astonished, to try things out, to inform themselves. For example, we’ll have a laser cutter and a 3D printer, people can loeten little robots, or make siebdruck stickers or laptop and cellphone cases from different materials. On Saturday evening, there’ll be a street game in the museum’s courtyard called “Johann Sebastian Joust”. Another nice project is “Drawdio,” whereby technology transforms the human body into a musical instrument. We’re also really looking forward to the MotionComposer, a kind of interactive stage, where the tiniest of movements can trigger sounds. And of course we’ll be displaying the projects that have won the mb21 German Multimedia Prize, as well as those of the CrossMedia Tour. We’ve also invited the young awardwinners of counterpart competitions in Hungary, Austria and Switzerland.
DM: Tell us more about mb21.
KM: mb21 is the only multi media prize in Germany for this age category five years up to 25. It is jointly awarded by the Dresden Media and Cultural Center and the German Children and Young People’s Film Center. We award prizes to the multimedia-related ideas and projects of children, teenagers and young adults. We especially look at creativity and imagination and ask ourselves: “Who and what lie behind the project? How are media combined in an original way? The production conditions also play a role. For example, whether a school worked with a special needs school for instance …
DM: Who takes part in the mb21 German Multimedia Awards? Tell us about the submissions.
KM: The younger children submit stop-motion animation films, bringing to life cuddly toys in their kindergarden for example. Or we receive delightful stories that they’ve written themselves and adorned with their own images and sounds. The older age groups use YouTube as a forum and channel for communication, inspiration and reflection. Every year, we’re totally blown away by the number of computer games that are made and submitted. Teenagers also find playful and practical approaches to making apps that improve everyday life for example, like mobile games for discovering a city. Participants also submit installations that bring media into the physical realm, raising questions and confusing visitors, inspiring them to reflect. This goes in the direction of media art which is something 12-year-old participants are already thinking about. And of course every year there are plenty of computer-animated films that enchant us. Overall, I would say that it’s sometimes the simplest ideas that users and visitors are most attracted to and enthusiastic about.
DM: What do you say to parents and educationists who are worried that children are consuming too much media, or are skeptical towards new devices and would prefer it if children spent less time in front of screens?
KM: We recommend that they allow children to use media instead of banning it but that they guide them. Forbidding it would restrict children’s access to an area that has become important in our social life. Media is part of our daily life. It’s important to find time for media alongside other activities in family life. We recommend consuming media together, to showing an interest in what children find exciting and in what they’re doing with their computers. It’s important to maintain a dialogue and to make sure things are explained. And to set aside time—for spending outside, for eating, for sleeping and for media.
Dealing with media in a competent way
DM: What do you think? How seriously should we take the the skeptics who warn against a digitalization of the lives of children and teenagers? Some even talk of “digital dementia”. …
KM: Every year, our work for the German media awards and our daily work show us a different picture. It’s important to look at what children and youths have to say and what they’re doing with media. It’s important for us all to be aware of what’s going on in terms of media in order to understand new developments, to categorize them and to draw attention to risks. Not all children and teenagers receive the necessary support from their social environment to be able to deal with media in a competent way. That’s why it’s very important that schools, extra-curricular establishments and parental home be open and that they receive support in terms of media education.
DM: Why are such voices given so much attention in the German media?
KM: Actually, history repeats itself. There have always been “new” media and they’ve always been accompanied by a sense of unease. Books were considered with distrust for a long time. It’s also a question of age when it comes to new media and the attitude depends on whether someone grew up with something or has to catch up on knowledge at a later stage in life, in a way that costs effort. One of our goals is to support this interaction with media, to help people recognize structures and how the media function. This makes it possible to recognize positive and negative aspects and how media can be used. Media competence is also a means of negotiation and action.
Media education – there’s always something new
DM: What do you most like about your job?
KM: I like the fact that there’s always something new. We always come across new subjects and that’s wonderful. Every year, it’s overwhelming to see what subjects interest children and young adults. There’s no place for pessimism at all. Instead, you can see how many important thoughts they’re having and how seriously they are dealing with certain themes. That’s the nice part. The negative part of my job is that I’m constantly having to catch up, to learn more and to grapple with new technologies and that can be annoying at times. It would be nice to just stick to one subject and build up my knowledge sometimes. But we try to do that by organizing other projects.
DM: Many thanks for the interview. Wishing you lots of fun and success at the media festival. See you there!
Our book app for iPads and Android tablets combines the wonderful story “Meta Morfoss” by the German writer Peter Hacks (1928-2003) with illustrations by the Russian illustrator, animator and game designer Max Litvinov (aka Kclogg).
What’s special about the app is the “reading quest” format. Users read the text and search for particular keywords, which are animated when tapped, making something happen in the picture. Thus readers gradually make their way through the story. Users can switch between versions in three languages: German, English and Russian.
Our crowdfunding campaign for the Meta Morfoss App (16.000 euro) was a great success and we’re hoping to have the finished product available for you by December 2014.
Meta Morfoss’ aunt Herr Maffrodit is very attractive, don’t you think? This gem has just arrived and will soon be sent to Martin, one of our crowdfunding supporters for our first children’s book app.
“Just App-etizers?” Daktylos Media participated in the Leipzig Book Fair 2014. Anna Burck (Daktylos Media), Karen Ihm (Stiftung Lesen) and Henrike Friedrichs (University of Bielefeld) discussed what makes a good book app for children. The panel was presented by the journalist and audio book narrator René Wagner.
Our first book app brings Peter Hacks’ story Meta Morfoss to iPads and Android tablets. Daktylos Media spoke to the publisher Dr Matthias Oehme about Peter Hacks and his wonderful texts for children.
Daktylos Media (DM): How did you meet Peter Hacks?
Matthias Oehme (MO): I had known him as a poet for a long time, but I met him much later on. It happened when I took over Eulenspiegel Verlag, about 1994, and I was trying to acquire Hacks as an author. And although this didn’t take place immediately, he was very friendly, open and really interested in what was happening with the old GDR publishing house. I had the impression that our meetings and talks, sometimes in the office, sometimes at his home in Schönhauser Allee or outside Berlin on his land, were overwhelmingly filled with sympathy and consent. He did want us to publish him.
DM: What particularly has stayed with you?
MO: Even if it’s only one aspect, it should not be underestimated: I had the impression that he was extremely curious; he always wanted to know the latest about issues and people, whether this had do with the publishing industry, political developments or literary gossip – it just had to be new. He was easily bored by anything else. And of course he had a judgment to make about everything; I’m not saying opinion because his judgments were usually better founded than simple opinions.
DM: Hacks, who didn’t have any children himself, wrote wonderful children’s literature. What in your opinion makes the texts so timeless and so powerful?
MO: They don’t overshadow children, they’re not didactic, they’re full of coherent logic and amusing wisdom, which children like very much. These are powerful, imaginative fables, and in terms of language the texts are clear and original and highly poetic, and confident attitudes and actions are always expressed. This is not literature for times of crisis or phases of decline only. What remains true is: “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”
DM: Do you know what significance writing texts for children had for Hacks, what role this played in his life, what he associated with it?
MO: He wrote about it in his essay: “What is a drama, what is a child?” and I don’t want to presume to know better than he did. But I think that in terms of literary aesthetics writing for children was not so important to him, and to that extent these texts are flowers from the margins of poetry. However, producing these things did come naturally to him, i.e. he often enough really felt like doing it apparently. The way some great playwrights sometimes wrote poems or narrative texts. He also had a highly developed sense of genre so that it was clear to him that certain subjects could only be treated within the realm of children’s literature. In 1977, he gave this answer to a question posed by the GDR Kinderbuchverlag about why he wrote for children and how come he knew them so well:
People ask: ‘Of course, you have children?’ And I respond: ‘No’: So they ask: ‘How come you know them then?’ I answer: ‘I don’t know any at all.’ And then people get confused and say: ‘But you seem to like them!’ – Is that really so difficult? I have no children and therefore I don’t know any and for those two very reasons it thus takes very little effort to keep my good opinion of them.
DM: Hacks’ stories, such as Meta Morfoss or Stories about Henriette and Uncle Titus, emerged from playing with language and its different meanings. Sometimes they come across as absurd. Can one say that there was an absurd narrative trend in East German children’s literature comparable to such developments in the English-speaking world or in the early Soviet Union? Or is Hacks an isolated case?
MO: I would presume that the similarities are very superficial. The absurd label does not fit the workings of Hacks’ imagination. Hacks is indeed an isolated case, I do believe that, but he is definitely grounded in realism; perhaps it’s his range, the fertility of his understanding of realism, that makes him unique. Everything that seems so fantastical, even absurd, like a bear who has the say at a rangers’ ball, is found in stories that are steeped in reality and adapted from reality with wit and twists and humor that children do not mistake for the countless grumpy products of anthropomorphosizing half-teachers? They have an unerring nose for these.
DM: A Russian team of developers that we had approached to program our Meta Morfoss app refused with the excuse: “We don’t want to have anything to do with ‘hermaphrodites’.” Do you know whether Meta Morfoss has ever been considered offensive in the past?
MO: I find that refusal funny but not only funny. No, I don’t know of anything although there were always some objections to Hacks right from the start, including to his texts for children. It’s teachers, the real ones and those who purport to be, who often have their problems with him. But I don’t know of such a sophisticated prejudice; and that’s all that is. I don’t know if it can trigger a socio-political debate. Don’t forget that a GDR child was less easy to deceive than a West German one. Thanks to Hacks in the end!
DM: Thank you for taking the time to conduct this interview with us!
The publisher and literature specialist Dr Matthias Oehme was born in 1954. He studied German in Leipzig and was awarded a PhD in 1984 for his examination of dramaturgy and drama theory in Schiller’s late works. In 1993, he and Jacqueline Kühne took over the publishing house Das Neue Berlin and Eulenspiegel Verlag, which continued to be run together by a new company. He still works as an editor occasionally (Herder, Schiller, Brecht, Hacks).
Our crowdfunding campaign has begun on startnext.de! With your help, we’re hoping to fund the making of our Meta Morfoss App. We’re currently in the starting phase – that’s the phase when a project draws attention and acquires fans. When we have 100 fans, the funding phase can begin.
And here at long last is our long-awaited pitch video! Watch it and you’ll see how our app prototype works!
Please help us to realize our project, which transforms Peter Hack’s wonderful story Meta Morfoss into a unique book app for all lovers of literature, young and old. There are many reasons for supporting us and here are just a few:
- Our Meta Morfoss app combines good literature – not retellings or adaptations – with original illustrations and good design.
- We have developed a totally new app format – the reading quest. The animated illustrations do not distract users from the text like other children’s book apps do, but instead they can only be activated through reading.
- The app lets users switch between German, English and Russian. Our stretch goal – if more money is donated than expected – is to develop other language versions, such as Spanish!
- So far, there are few book apps in German for children who are of reading age, let alone innovative ones. Our Meta Morfoss book app is for children aged 8 and above. It is also a box of treasures for literature lovers and experts of all ages!
- We hope to combine the fun of reading with the fun of technology with our original experiment.
And now we need you! Please go straight to www.startnext.de/meta-morfoss-app and become our fan! We need 100 so the funding phase can begin. And you don’t have to make a donation to become a fan! Nor do you have to register with startnext – you can simply become a fan on Facebook or Google+.
Absorbed, we follow the black chains of signs, feel the paper of the book’s pages and hear them rustle – that’s what reading has been like since the advent of printed books. So what is to become of it?
When Alice for the iPad, one of the first book apps for mobile devices, appeared in 2010, many people reacted with alarm. Nevertheless, Atomic Antelope had great success with their app adaption of Lewis Carroll’s classic: when the screen is shaken, tilted or swiped the app animates John Tenniel’s famous illustrations. Chris Stevens, head of that young British publishing house, simply consigned his critics to the corner reserved for diehards, claiming that no one in the classic book business was willing to accept that a new era had long since dawned with unforeseen technological possibilities waiting to be exploited and not dismissed. Children who would perhaps never get their hands on a printed book could well be inspired with an enthusiasm for literature by means of the technological format of an app.
Seductive Time Thieves
It has been obvious at the latest since the first iPad came on the market that digital technology’s new conception of the book extends far beyond the ebook. Unlike the ebook, a file format for electronic books the readability of which is currently still dependent on the reading device, a book app is programmed for a particular operating system. It can be downloaded from the app stores onto mobile devices using their respective system. Already there are ten times more tablets than e-readers in German households, and more and more people are reading on mobile computers. Today children grow up considering these devices to be perfectly natural. Thanks to the simplicity of their handling and their high entertainment value, they are seductive time thieves and justifiably considered as a threat to the reading of books. At the same time, however, they provide great opportunities to communicate content in a comfortable, attractive and playful way – for example, in the form of book apps.
In the large online stores, many apps now contain the word “book” in their designation. The term “book app” is not clear. If a media format focussed on storytelling and communicated by an aesthetically professional design is defined as a “book”, then that leaves only a few applications left in the app stores in the category “books”. Many offers for children turn out to be games. Furthermore, their graphic design is often far inferior to that of printed books. But such applications are usually free of charge – unlike the good, well-designed book apps. Products worthy of this designation offer an ambitious design and a story which can be experienced in several additional dimensions: through the physical interaction and through features like voice-over, sound-effects, music, animated illustrations and games. Programme directors, authors, editors, translators and illustrators work in a team with composers, musicians, speakers and designers of the graphics, the sound, the user interface and the user experience, as well as with game designers and computer programmers.
High cost, high risk
And the whole working process does not end with the release of the book app. The app is continually improved through close contact with clients, and often enhanced by new features. Book app projects push at the borders of classical publishing. They are complex and costly. As a result, not classical publishing houses, but companies from the fields of communications and entertainment are involved in their production, implementing commissions and disposing of large marketing budgets. The risk that the production costs, 5-digit figures on average, are not recouped after the release of the book app is great.
Book app Pioneer in Germany
Oetinger Verlag is one of the few publishers in Germany to have dared to develop their own book app. With its Tigerbook format, Oetinger has created an format for children’s book apps with which they are gradually ‘transforming’ their backlist successes, like Der Regenbogenfisch or Der kleine Eisbär, into interactive books. These can be downloaded and read through the Tigerbooks bookshop app. With the planned release of itsTigerCreate software in spring 2014, Oetinger Verlag, in collaboration with Tigerbooks Media GmbH, aims to provide the publishing industry with a much desired solution that will make it possible to export book apps for all relevant mobile operation systems.
For the classical publishing industry, a book app is a relatively new product vision that needs to be tried and tested. For a book to inspire people to read and experience the story in app form as well, it requires creative and original concepts. For readers, however, book apps will presumably not replace classical books but rather complement them. The demand for high quality content and book apps will surely increase in the years to come – at the latest, when a tablet is as common as a mobile phone in every household.
(C) Goethe-Insittut January 2014
The article was published first on www.goethe.de.
We haven’t had our iPad for very long. We recently downloaded The Legend of Momotaro. “When are we finally going to watch the app with the beautiful blossom?” our eldest six-year-old daughter T asked a few hours later. Till then, she had only played a few Toca Boca games, which she really loves and with whose characters she identifies. (She even wanted to ban her brother from feeding “her” blue monster in Kitchen Monsters. But back to the “beautiful blossom”: This is actually a peach with a stem that looks like a blossoming bud – the Momotaro app icon has now taken its place next to the cheerful Toca Boca faces.
The Legend of Momotaro is a storybook app created by the Saratoga Springs, NY state-based gaming company Ghost Hand Games. It is one of the interactive books that came very close to our ideal in all the descriptions and reviews, as we searched for good book apps. We haven’t found anything comparable in German yet.The app recounts a well-known Japanese legend in English. The wish of an older couple is granted when a child appears in their lives. The boy’s specialness is already clear from the fact that he arrives on Earth in a giant peach that the old woman fishes from the river. They call him Momotaro – Peach Boy. He grows up to be a great fighter and frees the country from ogres.
The design incorporates many elements from traditional Japanese culture. The story opens up on a scroll that is unrolled sideways. Each part of text has its own scene or “stage”, on which different changes that correspond to the narrative flow take place. The reader is immersed in a Japanese landscape, in which many things, such as a plum tree, wooden shoes or paper fish, can be discovered. They are depicted in kanji characters in the bottom bar and can be found either when either the kanji or the identified object in the picture are tapped. Then a small flower unfolds into a piece of origami paper, on which the item is depicted and both the English and Japanese words for it are written. Users can also hear the pronunciation by tapping the word. The Japanese word is also available in hiragana signs which represent syllables. The kanji character can be copied by users with their finger. Traditional elements of Japanese society and culture such as carps, peaches or shrines are explained on a sheet of “paper”.
When our 10-year-old son took a look at the app on his own, his first comment was “Boring!” He had hoped that by tapping on scenes reminiscent of Japanese woodcarvings, there would be more animations. But this is not an animated “playbook” like Alice for the iPad. Later on, before going to bed we finally had time to look at Momotaro’s story in peace. Our youngest daughter was already sleeping and the oldest one was cuddled up with me in bed. I started telling her the English story in German. Her brother sneaked in and cuddled up to us too. Children love fairy tales, at any time of day or night, in any situation.Apart from the clear, saturated and piercing sounds of a koto that begin the app, generally the sound is very discreet and meditative: There are a few summer sounds such as the murmur of the water and the wind, the chirping of crickets, the twittering of birds or the quiet and the homey bubbling of soup in a pot. The narrative conforms to traditional fairy-tales. We had plenty of time, so the children could listen to the story calmly and try out each interactive element after each episode. My daughter repeated the English and Japanese words enthusiastically and copied the kanjis with her finger. My son was interested in comparing the Japanese words with the English ones, many of which he already knew.
Both children had fallen asleep within about 40 minutes so we only got through two thirds. Maybe we’ll look at the rest tonight.
My conclusion: The Legend of Momotaro is a wonderful book app that can provide a great deal of pleasure, both for the mind and the senses. Adults should take a look at it with the children so that everyone can enjoy quality time together, but also so that that expectations and attention can be somewhat guided. Although, it’s impossible to tap about wildly and trigger cartoon-like experiences, it’s good if children can take their time to become curious about the story as well as the strange language and culture, so that they can have a lot of fun reading and watching.
The Legend of Momotaro
Ghost Hand Games LLC
Preis bei iTunes: 2,69 €
Size: 179 Mb